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AWS – What is it and how will it benefit my business?

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Amazon Web Services, or AWS for short, has been a gamechanger for businesses across the world.

The ability to put your server into the cloud opens up a new world of working from anywhere. With the recent lockdowns, millions of people were forced to work remotely, and solutions such as AWS helped enormously.

And while life is slowly returning to normal, AWS enables businesses to continue to work from home if they want to and future proofs your business.

 

I have a server – why do I need AWS?
For the majority of businesses, their IT infrastructure is stored locally on a server in the office.

On the server will be the data and files people use on a daily basis, along with databases linked to software such as accountancy packages, CRM systems, etc.

Generally, each computer in the workplace is connected directly to the server by a series of network cables, often referred to as being “hard-wired”.

To this end, everything is done on a local level, which is why so many people find it difficult to access the works network when they are away from the workplace – they simply don’t have a direct connection.

 

How Does It Work?
In summary, AWS takes your local server and puts it into the cloud, so you can access it from anywhere with an internet connection rather than having to be hard-wired to it.

Imagine being able to open your laptop anywhere on the planet, connect to the internet, click the AWS app and on the screen in front of you will be the same layout, file access and everything else that you would expect if you were at work?

 

What about security?
Security is at the forefront of AWS and is one of the main benefits of placing your server in the cloud.

It uses enterprise-level security, which is state of the art, high-level encryption for each user.

So many businesses are targeted by cybercriminals, sending phishing emails to staff that, once opened, cause all manner of havoc.

Often, viruses will be released if links have been clicked that target the server and look to wipe everything stored there. In other scenarios, the criminals will prevent people from accessing the server and hold the company to ransom.

In these and many other scenarios, the weakness is due to the direct connection between the computer and server through the network cable. With AWS, this “bridge” is removed.

 

So will this stop cybercriminals?
This won’t stop them from trying, but without the AWS server access details, they won’t be able to get into the server even if you do inadvertently open a phishing email.

This doesn’t mean you can be cavalier in your approach to cybercrime – you still need to be alert to scams, but it gives you an extra security level.

What’s more, it’s the cloud-based desktop that’s accessing the server via the AWS app, not the machine itself.

So even if they lose their laptop, have it stolen, damaged or share it with other family members, without the AWS log in detail and 2-factor authorisation, other people can’t access the server.

This way, if you are compromised, only your computer is at risk, not the entire network.

 

Does this mean I need to give all my staff a laptop to work?
If you want to, you can, but it’s not essential as staff can use their own personal laptops or PCs to access the cloud network.

What’s more, our IT Engineers can set up a work PC or laptop in the cloud, so staff can remotely log in using their personal device and still access their desktop (the screen you see when you log onto your computer) as if they were in work.

There is no compromise to security using this approach either, as the staff member still needs to use the AWS gateway to access their cloud desktop.

 

Do I need to set it up myself?
You can, but it’s far quicker and more cost-effective for our engineers to configure it all for you.

This includes setting up new laptops with AWS before issuing them to staff or if they are using their own devices, we can set up a cloud desktop for them to access.

Either way, they will be able to work as normal with no noticeable difference.

 

Will my team require training on using AWS.
We will talk each user through the way to access AWS; however, it’s a rapid process.

Each machine is authenticated to a specific user, and once the security settings have been set up, it is simple to use and totally secure.

That said, we will be on hand to offer support should staff encounter any problems and will be there to fix any problems.

 

Can I access AWS through a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet?
Yes you can, as long as the operating system is up to date.

The user experience on a phone would be completely different to a PC or laptop as the screen is much smaller, but on a tablet, it would work just fine.

You would just need to tether your account to another device using the steps as mentioned above, and our team will be on hand to help.

 

Is AWS the same as Microsoft 365?
No.

Microsoft 365 (MS365) allows you to access emails, files and folders from any device connected to the internet; however, it does not allow you to access other third-party software such as SAGE.

It is certainly a powerful tool, and one business of all sizes should consider having; however, it does not replace your server.

That said, the two work very well together, and you can still combine AWS with all the features of MS365 to have an effective, cloud-based workflow.

 

What if I lose my log in details or my machine is compromised?
Firstly, only authorised administrators can issue log-in details to users to access AWS, and they have complete control over accessibility.

That way, if your machine is compromised, AWS can be remotely wiped from that machine, and you can be set up on another.

 

What if a staff member leaves or tries to steal company info?
You can revoke user access instantly and delete the remote desktop, so they cannot access AWS.

Alternatively, if you suspect an employee of data-theft, you can freeze their access and an appointed administrator can go into their workstation /desktop and see all activity.

You can also “rollback” days, so if you suspect something has changed, you can pinpoint the exact time when this has happened.

 

Is it scaleable?
Yes.

It’s one of the main features of AWS as you can scale up or down as needed as you are paying per user for cloud access and the server license, which is based on the size of cloud space you need.

Additionally, the ability for staff to use their own devices means you can recruit staff without the added expense of providing them with a laptop or PC.

 

What about third-party software such as CRM systems, SAGE, and others – will it work on AWS?

The general rule of thumb is that if it can run on a server in the office, it will work just as well in the cloud solution.

So for database-driven software – yes – you can use it on AWS.

The big benefit of using AWS when it comes to databases is that you don’t have the big expense of purchasing a server – you can just upload the database to AWS.

There is also the benefit of not having to upgrade to a new server once the database outgrows it – you can just increase the space you need in the AWS cloud.

It’s always prudent to talk to us first as all software is different, so get in touch, and we can confirm if it can be used correctly on AWS.

 

We use a mix of Apple, Samsung and other brands as well as Microsoft products – will they work on AWS.

Yes – AWS works with all types of the operating system; we will configure the network at the outset based on the technology used.

 

Is there a minimum internet connection speed needed to work with AWS?Surprisingly, the connection speed doesn’t need to be particularly fast, and 10mbs will be fine if it’s a single user.

The key benefit here is that you are working in the cloud, not downloading from it, so you don’t need to wait for files to upload/download to work; it’s a case of logging in and working as usual.

But even if your connection drops, all the work you’ve done on AWS will still be there when you reconnect, and even if you are unable to reconnect for hours, AWS will go into hibernation mode and wait for you to log back in.

 

Are there any other benefits?
Not only are you saving money on server costs, but the electric bill associated with running a server 24/7 is removed, as is the need for a dedicated, air-conditioned server room if your business is big enough.

You also don’t have the downtime associated with flood, fire and other damage which could affect a hard-wired server.

Also, the server may need to be upgraded every 5-years or so, so you’re saving on that cost too.

 

What are the fees?
There are two sets of costs.

One is to set AWS up and configure users, and the other is the ongoing licensing cost based on the number of users and cloud space required from AWS.

By talking to our team, we can assess your needs and generate a cost accordingly.

 

What do I need to do next?
Contact Jacob in our AWS team on:
01792 464748
[email protected]

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